You could’ve called it “Gilbert-Palooza,” an evening to celebrate the life, work and essence of Gil Sandler, noted author, columnist, radio personality, World War II veteran, raconteur, bon vivant, storyteller extraordinaire, wearer of hats and bow ties, and the undisputed chronicler of Jewish Baltimore and all things Charm City.
More than 150 people turned out on Nov. 9 at the Jewish Museum of Maryland in East Baltimore for a special tribute to Sandler, who will turn 95 in February. Among them were his spiritual leader, Rabbi Daniel Cotzin Burg of Beth Am Synagogue, JMM Executive Director Marvin Pinkert, local Jewish historian and Jmore contributor Deborah Weiner, Jane Woltereck, director of collections and exhibitions at the Baltimore Museum of Industry, Tom Hall of WYPR and other friends and family members.
“No one has done more to explore and preserve Baltimore’s Jewish heritage than Gil Sandler,” Weiner told the audience. “Over the past years, I’ve been working on a book on the history of the Jews of Baltimore, and I don’t exaggerate when I say that Gil’s work … [provides] a sort of bedrock for understanding the past century, really, of Jewish life in this city. Through his stories, he has captured the personality of Baltimore Jewry.
“To my knowledge, I’m pretty sure that no other Jewish community in America has someone quite like Gil to remind us of who we are and where we’ve been,” she said. “Gil is unique. And we’re lucky to have him.”
Rabbi Burg, wearing a Sandler-esque hat, agreed.
“Gil Sandler is a Beth Am treasure,” he said “A past president and honorary chair of our annual fund, Gil is a regular Shabbat morning attendee who understands the power of Jewish community. No one gets to be totally proprietary when it comes to Gil — he’s too important to Baltimore and Baltimore Jewish past and present — but it sure is nice to see him in shul!”
Besides Weiner and Rabbi Burg, other speakers included Woltereck and Sandler’s children, Joseph Sandler, Judy Sandler and Marie Schott, as well as the guest of honor himself.
“I was overwhelmed,” said Sandler, a Roland Park resident and former Mount Washingtonian, a few days after the event. “I still can’t believe all the hype. I send thanks and deep appreciation to all who made the evening memorable for so many, including me.”
A light reception and book signing was held following the event.
Photos by Will Kirk
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